Saturday, October 07, 2006

Media coverage of Walid speaking at Ford Motor Corp.

Ford Motor hosts iftar dinner

DEARBORN - Ford Motor Company hosted its 6th annual Ramadan fast breaking Wednesday, an event attended by around 150 Muslim and non-Muslim guests.

The evening program took place in the Ford Credit building's cafeteria and was themed, "Ramadan: The Month of Forgiveness and Reconciliation."

Speakers included Mike Bannister, CEO of Ford Credit; Paul Nussbaum, Executive Vice President of Ford Credit; Dawud Walid, Executive Director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-Michigan); and Ramzi Mohammad, a scientist and professor of cancer biology at Wayne State University (WSU).

The event began at 5:45 p.m. and was timed to end at sunset when Muslims end their daily Ramadan fasts. The program began with a reading from the Qur'an, after which Nussbaum came to the podium.

"Like all of the interfaith events at Ford, this gives us a chance to share in each other's community experiences. Ford has been extremely active in promoting such diversity events, not just for Muslims, but all religious groups," said Nussbaum.

"The Ford Interfaith Resource Network was created with the idea of respecting the dignity of all of the employees that we come in contact with and treating everyone with respect," noted Bannister.

He added, "The first step of a positive relationship with our customers is valuing everyone's contribution. The Islamic faith is one of the many faiths represented by the interfaith activities.

"Approximately half of our guests this evening are not Muslim. And I think it's noteworthy that about 20 of the non-Muslims have fasted today in solidarity with the Muslim community just as they did last year."

After the Ford officials, Walid - the first keynote speaker - came up. "These types of gatherings are a good way for all of us to become more acquainted with one another and open up the way to communication," he said.

"When a Muslim involves himself with reading the Qur'an more in this month, as regardful Muslims do, this reading should awaken them to the mistakes that they have made for themselves and to others.

"The act of fasting should sharpen one's mind as blood flow which is ordinarily used for digesting the food is diverted to the brain. It is a great time for reflection and deep thought as well as change.

"Asking for forgiveness in Islam should mean recognizing one's mistakes and having a desire to not commit those mistakes again. This is the true repentance. And whoever does not show mercy to others shall not receive mercy. This is a central theme present in the holy month of Ramadan."

Dawud noted that he had met Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit last week because of recent controversial comments made by Pope Benedict. The pontiff's comments about the Prophet Muhammed had been widely criticized by Muslims.

"We weren't 100% satisfied with the Pope's attempts to apologize you might say. But the Cardinal told us he had high respect for Muslims and Prophet Muhammad. Because of our faith encouraging reconciliation, we were obliged to come halfway and extend our hands to our Catholic brothers and sisters," said Walid.

"As Muslims, we should reflect upon the many mistakes we may have made over the year and look at ourselves before we point at others."

Mohammad - the second keynoter - said that there is still a lot of ignorance about Islam although less so than in the past. He recalled that when he came to the U.S. from Iraq 23 years ago he had first come to Utah. One day a Mormon friend invited him to his home for dinner, an invitation Mohammad accepted.

"Before we ate, my friend said, 'lets pray'. After he made his prayer he said, 'let's eat'. I said, 'Wait, we pray too before meals, can we pray?' My friend agreed to it but he was surprised - he didn't know that Muslims pray before meals," said Mohammad, to chuckles from the crowd.

The WSU professor noted how he had lived in a majority Christian area in his childhood and remembered that they too had fasted. "I remember that the Christians would fast for 50 days and nights.

"They wouldn't fast from all food and water, but maybe they would fast from meat. I had a friend who would fast from looking at beautiful girls. It was a type of spiritual training," said Mohammed to laughs from the crowd. "The Jews also believe in fasting, they fast 26 hours continuously on Yom Kippur."

Said Mohammad, "This holy month of Ramadan, you feel that when you fast correctly for 30 days, you love everyone. It really changes you, not just in your home life but when you are at work too.

"This Ford Motor Company, you have to treat it as though it is your company. A Muslim cannot cheat, cannot lie and cannot cut corners. God orders you to come on time to work. Believing Muslims don't just worry about if the boss will catch them - they are concerned about what God will see.

"Wherever I go, I see non-Muslims fasting. In the university there are many people who are fasting along with us. The reason why is because there are some Muslims who are obeying the injunction to be good role models and that is why others are following them and loving them," concluded Mohammad before the sunset prayers and fast breaking.

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